Today is 28 September, the happy birthday of Jananetri Sheikh Hasina. If we give a glimpse on the page of the calendar, it will be found that our beloved Prime Minister and dynamic daughter of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has stepped into her 69th birthday, so to say the 68th birth anniversary. Sheikh Hasina, by this time, has traversed 68 springs in her life. But this year, the happy occasion of her birthday has appeared before the nation with a different flavour, dimension, meaning and message. For the last three years, Sheikh Hasina celebrates her birthday either in the USA or in the UK as because she has to remain busy in various international events there thousands of miles away from her dear people in Bangladesh. Just one day before taking preparations to celebrate this happy occasion Sheikh Hasina was decorated with 'Champion of the Earth' award by the United Nations at a grand function at its New York Headquarters.
One more leap - one more award and that is the covetous Nobel Prize. We, the Bengali nation, are waiting very eagerly to hear that before the celebration of her next birthday, Sheikh Hasina would be decorated by the Nobel Committee from Oslo. Here I want to make one point very clear that Sheikh Hasina by this time has occupied rooms in the inner hearts of her people so deeply that she seldom needs any prizes. People's love, affection and confidence are the best award for her, even more valuable than the Nobel Prize. Her greatest prize is people's trust.
The reception of the 'Champion of the Earth' award is a clear testimony to the fact that she is not concerned only for Bangladesh, but also for an environmentally sound, hunger and deprivation free peaceful world. On the last occasion she delivered her speech at UNGA, the Bangladesh Prime Minister put forward a 14-point charter of suggestions of which at least eight suggestions were accepted by the United Nations at its unanimous resolutions.
After coming to power, Sheikh Hasina has become successful in drawing the attention of the international community for pursuing a policy of non-communal, progressive and innovative ideas and fighting courageously against hunger, poverty, terrorism and extremism. By declaring Vision-2021 and Vision-2041, Sheikh Hasina has become the undisputed leader of the Bengali nation. Nonetheless, she has become world's most prudent statesman of the contemporary time.
Among many laurels that have added feathers to her crown some notable ones include the Félix Houphou?t-Boigny Peace Prize by the UNESCO in 1998, Paarl S Buck Award in 2000, the Ceres Medal by the Food and Agriculture Organization in 1999, Mother Teresa Award in 1998, MK Gandhi Award, Paul Henry Fellow, Indira Gandhi Peace Prize, IT Award-2010, UN South-South Award, Global Diversity Award, UN MDG Award and so on. Besides, in recognition of her wisdom, talent and merit as well as prudent philosophy she has been given at least 12 degrees of doctorate from world's prestigious universities like Boston University and Bridgeport University of the USA, Waseca University of Japan, University of Apart, UK, Biswa Bharati University of India, National University of Australia, Catholic University of Brussels, Russian People' University, State University of Petersburg etc.
We are happy as well as proud that Sheikh Hasina enjoys the blessings of Almighty Allah who helped her survive at least 19 attempts on her life, so far. Although Sheikh Hasina survived on 15 August tragedy when she lost her father, mother, brothers, sisters and other kith and kin, the killers did not leave her trail. While narrating that gruesome incident the Wikipedia in its article titled 'Bangladesh Biography---Sheikh Hasina' wrote, "Her (Shaikh Hasina) divine fate led her to escape the conspiracy of eliminating the entire family of the Father of the Nation and subsequently bring her to the leadership of the largest political organisation in Bangladesh." Attacks have been made on her life numerous times. I had the chance or misfortune to be present at the spot during at least three attacks on Sheikh Hasina within the country. The first was on 24 January 1988 at Chittagong when Gestapo forces of police officer Rakibul Huda opened fires like hailstorms targeting Sheikh Hasina when she went to Laldighirpar to address a scheduled public rally. At least 24 people died, while hundred others were injured in the massacre.
Another assassination attempt on Awami League chief was carried out during a parliamentary by-election in Dhaka. At the time of her visiting a polling centre at Kalabagan the assailants fired several rounds of bullets at her. By the grace of Allah those bullets failed to reach her and Sheikh Hasina survived yet again.
Then one of the nastiest political killings of contemporary times occurred---the grenade attack at Bangabandhu Avenue on 21 August. It was unbelievable even for crime experts or under any definition of criminology that the main target, Sheikh Hasina, survived a pre-planned attack carried out with grenades, which are used in warfare by militarily trained people, with the direct support of the government. At least 24 people, including Women Awami League President Ivey Rahman, were killed and many people were injured, some of them became life-crippled.
Apart from assassination attempts, there were moves as well to eliminate Sheikh Hasina politically. Initiatives to send Sheikh Hasina into exile were made through local and foreign conspiracies, sometimes by bringing about splits in the party, sometimes through a 'Minus Two' theory, or sometimes by imprisoning her. A more awful incident than forming BKSAL splitting the party occurred on 26 May 2008. At that time Sheikh Hasina was in prison. Provoked by local and foreign conspirators, a council meeting of party had been called to remove her from the leadership of the party. Most of the stalwarts of the party were the masterminds of that conspiracy. However, the young Turks of the party took a hard stance against that. Before the council meeting got underway, young leaders under the leadership of Golam Kabir Rabbani, popularly known as Chinu, made it clear that none could sit in the chair of Sheikh Hasina during the session. That chair would remain empty. Otherwise, they would not let the council take place. Sensing immediate danger to be humiliated or even lynched, the stalwarts who conspired against Sheikh Hasina left the venue without the notice of the leaders and workers.
On this happy occasion, when we are celebrating our leader's birth day, one nostalgic question is hovering around my mind and I think many Hasina disciples may want to know an answer to it. Was Bangabandhu ever aware that his beloved daughter, Sheikh Hasina would steer the nation? I shall say, yes, the Father of the Nation knew it very well. As evidence I would like to narrate one historical incident here.
After the burial of Tofazzal Hussain Manik Mia at the Azimpur graveyard, Bangabandhu [the then Mujib Bhai] returned to his 32, Dhanmondi residence along with a group of senior journalists. It was customary for journalists to follow Bangabandhu, much like those who followed the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Bangabandhu was tired and exhausted as he was busy the whole day accomplishing the last rituals of Manik Mia, his greatest well-wisher. While taking tea and light refreshment at the open lawn of his residence, Bangabandhu held open discussion on journalisms. The conversation was obviously centred on philosophical concept of life and death and other issues of high moral value. Accumulating high courage and brevity, KG Mostafa, better known as KG Bhai, who was regarded as an icon of the profession of journalism diffidently asked Bangabandhu, "Mujib Bhai, God forbid, if you go to the other world leaving us alone, is there anybody in your family who can replace your leadership?" Bangabandhu instantly answered in negative. However, after taking few puffs of his ubiquitous pipe, he said, "I think my daughter 'Hashu' has some of the spirit that is essential in politics. I am confident she can be doing well in politics." Maybe, that was some kind of passing remark of Bangabandhu about his daughter. There may be some truth that Bangabandhu's remark originated from some emotion. After a lapse of about five decades, today it is crystal clear that those utterances of Bangabandhu echoed from the deep root of his self-confidence. At this point of history, it was proved that Bangabandhu was right.
The Father of the Nation brought independence for Bangladesh. But he left the task of building Sonar Bangla for his daughter Sheikh Hasina. Keeping the target of fulfilling that bestowed responsibility, Jananetri has vowed to build Digital Bangladesh, and to realize Vision-2021 and Developed Bangladesh by 2041. In this new war, we millions of archers are on the horseback behind Commander-in-chief Sheikh Hasina.
While wishing return of hundreds of spring in her life, let this be our vow, on the auspicious occasion of the birthday of Jananetri Sheikh Hasina that, we are with her as she goes forward in building a peaceful, prosperous Sonar Bangla that was the dream of Bangabandhu.
Azizul Islam Bhuiyan is Contributing Editor, The Daily Observer. E-mail: [email protected]